Tokeya Graham and Keilani Graham
DescriptionTokeya Graham (48) shares a conversation with her daughter, Keilani Graham (23), about the way the pandemic has shifted their relationship, as well as their understanding of personal creativity. They also discuss living authentically while centering autonomy.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Tokeya Graham
- Keilani Graham
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Venue / Recording Kit
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00:01 Hi, my name is kehlani G. I'm 23 years. Old today, is July 8th. 2021. I am in Rochester, New York. And I'm talking to the key of C G, and she is my mother.
00:18 Hi, my name is Takeya c, g. I am 48 years old. Today's date is Thursday, July 8th, 2021. I am located in Rochester, New York and I am in conversation with keilani, graham. Who is my daughter?
00:35 Keilani, I'm so happy we talking to you today. My face is bursting with joy from my heart. So I was thinking about the ways that you've been influencing me particularly over this pandemic. And I just want to tell you. Thank you so very much for being patient with me and inviting me into your spaces in a different sort of way. Like we've always been close together. So I just want to tell you. Thank you from my heart, especially my makeup today.
01:21 Do you appreciate about our relationship that has changed or growing or developing while we've been in this pandemic advice? Or any kind of conversation or topics that we talked about? Cuz we talked about a lot and we talked often. We see each other every single day. So thank you for being able to just really open up and hear what I have to say. And I just pushed off to the side and be like, oh, well, you're young. You don't know what you're talking about. So thank you for that. And I really want you to meet some of my friends told us about this about gender identity. She told us about, you know, body autonomy and body positivity. And I'm like, hey, honey. I'm so sorry that my friends are a bunch of
02:21 Age women who are following you on social media, but you Embrace us so fully, you know, so what do you what do you get from that? Like being this young person of being this last stage of wisdom? I think for me it just provide me with like a sense of community because I think that sometimes when you only have friends that are younger the same ages you if you get really wrapped up in awhile, you know, if they know what's fasting and what's right? And I think that having your friends be my friend. I'm definitely because it's like, wow people who are older than me. The really listen to what I have to say, but I also can listen to what they have to say and it's basically just an exchange of ideas of oh, well you think like this and I think like this, let's come together and see how these things can meet in the middle. I just
03:21 Call Ed Sheeran s, right, you know, she had two friends with me. And so they go into their careers. I'm getting text messages. I think I should do spaces. And frankly. I think that not only do we model that for other people. We really a body that for ourselves and it just makes me smile. And after I get choked up and I think about the kind of relationship. I want it with my own daughter and you know, not being raised by my mother and being raised with my with my homegirl, but I think when I envisioned how it would be for me to mother a daughter, like I put all these components in my mind.
04:21 You know, and I wanted someone who was funny and engaging artistic and kind and generous and so like, when I look at you and your twenty-three-year-old, so even though I was I had children had a child when I was your age, and I think that you have body a different sort of wisdom than I had it. That agent is really fascinating for me to see. So, how did you learn to be a mother where it was? It always your idea that you wanted to be a mother or just? Yeah. How did you there? You know, it's funny, my grandmother grandma. She is my grandmother, my grandmother y'all. When I looked at Grandma, who was a supervisor, you know, she raised me and cousins and her own kids and everybody else. And, you know, you all, when you came along and looking at her looking at, you know,
05:21 Television shows and picking up bits and pieces of what I saw and other people. And also I was an Avid Reader, you know, and then able to pick out those things that you know,
05:34 Not sometimes a parent to talk about parenting, and they're always about what, I, how I came to the table. For the truth of it is that I wasn't activated as a mother until I became a child. So each of you you and your two brothers have all taught me bits and pieces and even now, you know, I'm always busy on Sunday. This is and I know you are teasing me so much about it, but I will pull up an article and no, I want to know how to pair you are at this age cuz I like your 2020 128, and I cannot be the same mother for young adults and adults that I was with toddlers And preschoolers write. So even the other day, like, in this house and you know, too well for Buskirk, not here, but you know, what? You and Christian and just really trying to be a better mother always. So I guess, and I'm always learning and I take my cues from you. If I say, or do something that does not see the resume, or if I read your social media.
06:34 Right? And I have conversations with your dad in the week. We sort of agreement to suck cuz I'm also a parent partner I'm saying so it's it's always changing and you know, I just appreciate you all's patient with me, you know you I haven't dropped you too many times. You have to crack, you open your know about motherhood, and you think about me as your mother. What are some things that you feel that I've given to you, that you benefited greatly from?
07:07 I would say first and foremost just your authentic true self. You've definitely given us that giving me that this show me how to be an upstanding person. I'm being passionate about everything you do that has been something that you giving me and I can see in the flash firsthand, how passionate you are about. Everything you do about being a mother about being a wife about, being a friend, and a sister, just everything, a humanitarian. Every thank you. Dear, you're passionate about, and I really appreciate that because it just helps me realize no matter what I do. I can be passionate about so many things and really put my all into it.
07:40 You going to make me cry interview? That means so much to me, to be able to be seen, right? And to be valued in and that's something I also appreciate about our relationship being a black woman, being a black woman. And this time, I'm 48 in the same. Right? Your information is always updating my Hardware. I'm a college professor than a source of information, come from you and Christian in this house. Right? Right. Being a black woman in this time. How is that for you? Like if I have to be on social media and first of all,
08:29 I'm going to head it on purpose, but I'm sure I probably would rip my own hair out way back in the day if I ever had that level of scrutiny. So how was it for you being in this generation? That is over surveilled and that's so very present. And so very in the moment all the time for me staying like shooting myself. Having this sense of my own identity. Regardless of what social media says, really helps me stay in touch with myself. Just being able to really look and see and know who I am. As a person having friends to validate my experiences who also have gone do, similar things, who are black women. I'm also helps with not living under the thumb of social media. And I think that when you realize that social media in itself is a very real thing, but everything is made up, you begin to live a life. That's more authentic, that's more free because you don't feel like you have to live up to be certain.
09:29 Okay. Yeah, people feel like having certain things make you this type of person and that's what they think that has nothing to do with my beliefs. I don't have to believe everything. I see on social media. I really slippery slope. When you start believing everything you see on social media and holding yourself to the standard that oh, well, I saw somebody put somebody on social media. I have to get it to know. You don't have to get it too. So I think that's what really helps me out because I'm, I can do whatever I want and as long as I'm being safe, and I'm not harming anybody, then it's fine. And I think people get too wrapped up and be like, oh, I have to do this. One thing. I have to do this way. No, take your time. Do what you want to how you want to. It's never too late or too early to start something. I think.
10:16 That all the time when I'm in my moments of I want to say insecurities but hesitation because I do have a community in a public profile and sometimes and people see me as this person who has it all together. And I know, I don't write, but I'm nice and I'm always trying to say. Yes, the thing that you give me this generation will save us that you give me is you don't have to write, you don't, you don't have to you absolutely don't because sometimes people see that in there. Like, you know what two keys are really nice person. She'll do it for me. Oh, I know somebody or have a friend that's all well and good. It's nice to be other people's person. But at some point you have to choose yourself and I think that's more important than anything. You have to choose yourself first. And yet you yourself first every single time. Not this one.
11:16 Or will you being cold? This is the easiest time for me to do it yourself. First all the time.
11:27 This whole kehlani existed. You know, what do you do in your mama's and security though?
11:37 I don't know. I don't want to sound like I have it all figured out or that I'm never insecure. But to be honest, I'm not insecure about pretty much anything. If I do happen to feel a moment of insecurity, I think asking myself where that comes from, where the root comes from. Because if I realize that it might not be, actually a moment of insecurity like, oh, well, I feel this way because of xy&z, I think knowing that initial cause of what the feeling is really helps. You understand the true feeling and how to work through it. That's why I think I don't get insecure because
12:16 You know, we're out here doing our own thing and I'm not in competition with anybody as great as my friends. Are there. Not my competition. I'm my only competition and I'm not even the competition gets myself every day. I do wake up to be a better person, but that's not me being in competition with myself. So I don't think that really creates any insecurity for me. I'd love that though, as being half-full or half-empty and it's like, it's always full of the air. And so, we look at insecurities, even if you don't have to sit there, that's why you know what? I reject that notion of imposter syndrome, right?
13:16 Really who I am, you know, in the space every moment, even if it's uglier upside down there, all thumbs or you know, kind of kind of blurry that those things are. Okay, and I think that we just don't give ourselves permission particular is black women to be able to figure it out and I think that just watching you figure it out and then showing my own self figure it out cuz I could listen, we have the prototype for people to look at us and white older family. Perfect father, mother Mary. You guys are all artistic and creative, you know, but
13:50 Self together, you know, with Google because we do allow online with the pandemic and everything. When you think about your creativity thinking about. Okay. So one of the things that I absolutely love about this season is that the level of creativity, our whole house has happened. Specifically, you know, you and I am in space. You cut your hair off. Yes. I started. Coloring your hair, a different color, every every month on the job. You got to do nails. And I am just absolutely fascinated with the level of creativity that
14:50 What is acrylic nails like this black body? Right? Cuz that's awesome and your whole look. What is it that you're trying to convey with the kehlani grab at it and that you don't have to fit into this idea of oldest how black people are some of this wood like we were supposed to do. I mean, I'm black, I'm undeniably back. So you don't get to tell me how I'm supposed to luck or what I'm supposed to do. And basically, I just want to have fun. Like, I just want to have fun with my luck. You can always switch it up. You can always change it out. And I think that cutting my hair was really liberating in a way because, I mean, before I had short hair looks like my size received but actually, like cutting off all of my hair because I remember, I'll be like, oh, well, I'm going to wait until this happens, then I'll cut my hair and then laugh.
15:50 Summer. I was like, why not? Why not do it now? And I feel like that has really helped me like make choices from that point on, cuz why not? Why not now? Why not now, you know what they say about choices. I remember those days were sitting around. The thing about us though is that people are so invested in our luck. Just thinking about, you know, you going to school and having a new hair look and every hair stays everybody is always been invested from your having a one little piece of, you know, your present look for that transition in the last two thousand and people are just really invested in it. Right? When you cut your hair last year, you know, I think you cut my hair. I cut your hair back and forth thing if I remember correctly, but that was the liberating space. The spring pressure, also a space, an agency owning, you know, and I know.
16:50 I'm saying because I was tied up at the top of my head and find the same thing, you know, couple of
17:11 You know, some of the things that we're like, I'm always in fashion both confessed rested person, and really dry and still very stylish. But not, you know, reclaim it any of my like sexiness or am I missing what a middle-aged woman looks like it looks like. So, you know, seeing you and I
17:42 I'm not going to wear Foundation garment, you know, so that even that space of body whatever they call Body positivity, you know, if I were to look at your social media only and I never met you probably go to your YouTube channel about New York. What else do you have for your Twitter? You have Instagram?
18:18 But if I was going to use social media,
18:25 So, I think on social media, you get on every different platform, we get a little bit different, but same idea of who I am. I feel like on Twitter. It's a bunch of like one-liners. And also, just me sharing information. And I would, I guess I would seem like on Twitter the most radical because I have a really strong opinions and I had a radical and everything. So, yeah. My opinion is, they're there. You can see them, but have no problem with sharing my opinions Instagram. Yeah. It's like, oh, she's pretty smart. That's what happens when you follow me on. Instagram. Tik-Tok is more just in place for like fun. Showing off outfits. Showing off my hair and makeup, stuff like that.
19:25 I'm still existing in a black body and not being radical enough on its own, so I can like that.
19:34 Stop YouTube and we miss that, I don't know. I don't know what the panda make.
19:42 It just changed a lot. I think. And I think that even though it allowed me to be creative in some ways and other ways, it also kind of just made me walk away from something that I didn't feel like we're fully. That was fully invested in but during the pandemic you started doing something very creative. So did you really start getting into this painting during a pandemic? Do you know what kehlani that is? So true. Okay, so, you know, I've always drawn and the writer. I think that that thing the writing has been the what I've connected to the most, right, so I'm writing writing writing the pandemic hit and I didn't find like I had any writing like I didn't have any place to put my words and we were up really late at night.
20:42 I just remember, I think maybe you may have said something about painting or something to happen, and it just took Dad, and I put it down and I didn't have the words and I think of a paintbrush and that paintbrush became a replacement for my pain at the time, but it had, it gave me the same sort of expression in the same sort, of freedom. And so, I created my pandemic series. I remember paying, my first pandemic painting. Pandemonia. It's funny because the first set of things I've done like the first six or so, have all been different iterations of my bald-headed self, right? And so it's funny to see how we know we're speaking, you know, how it will release my creativity, but I felt like I was like bubbling under the surface and I felt heavy and heavy way, you know, butt head.
21:42 Creativity, have you any ideas happy with words that needed an escape and I needed somewhere to go and my pan or paper or eyeliner crayon? Those sorts of things were not made it, they were not satisfactory. And then what I had to say, what I had to be what I needed to heal, you know, cuz one of the things that happened right before the pandemic, you know, your cousin died. And so having two back-to-back that stuff precious has two sons 9 months being very sad. And I'm thinking about you and thinking about you. I'm really being sad and and morning the country. And, you know, looking at a 17 year old boy's life, who who stopped and got the ravages of cancer and looking at, you know, all the things that we have been through as a family so much so much heartbreak, but always very resilient. I had a lot to say and I
22:42 Some word for to come out and luckily, I was able to find canvas8, you know, wanting to continue to emote in to heal. So it's been a very, it has been a very creative time. So you talk about emoting and resiliency.
23:07 All these emotions and I don't know, I guess I just wonder how you seem to be this person who has it all together and
23:19 You know.
23:21 You still have all these feelings and you always come off as being someone who has it together, really honestly. And what advice you would give to someone to really live that you are having sex out, because although you said, like you said, you do have all these emotions. You do have stuff going on in your life. You still have to seeing it going on and everything else. She's a bubbly person and she really it just she's just really nice. What advice would you give someone to?
23:53 Lena's funny I think about that. I just tell people, you know, I fall apart at night every night. You know what, that's not the truth either. What I appreciate about the life that I am creating it cuz I'm still alive in it is that I've always felt all of my feelings. I'm not sure. You know, here is your astrological sign Gemini, but like it's about always just owned who I am and every moment. And there been several things for me that have been instructed to where I am in the space or something. I tell you and Christian and Kurt really, you get the right to be and by being fiercely in charge of myself and talk about the static. I cultivate corner of it all and I have no issue with telling people. I'm angry, angry right now, and I'm upset.
24:53 Really been able to tap into those feelings. So you know what, I tell you what I tell anyone my students would I tell, you know, anything that we do, I always want people to remember to tip the glass backwards. Not what why? But that's whatever it takes to fire. So before the fire spirit and that's why I always want you to get, you know, what, your brother, the other people to get from me. Is that what you see, as somebody who is always revising, who she is, who's always owning who I am and every moment and if I make a mistake, I apologize for it. Cuz I do something great. I celebrate for it. If I help somebody, they don't everybody doesn't have to know. I think that those are the sorts of things cuz I got the more I feed into other people's accolades or their belief that I have it all together than my head is going to get bigger. Sorry big ball as it is and so I don't want to have this big gigantic don't I can't remember. I try to stay humble and ground it, but part of me is
25:53 Able to recognize my own triggers like, you know, what, something goes wrong. And it's like I'm going to see what maybe I should but I know it looks like and I just, you know, I really want on that. But I want to be good and I want to be some good that people want to do good and I want to be good and I think that if anybody can look at my life has been simple and just really understanding that each of us deserves the right to for wholeness and that does not mean Perfect, the full spectrum of who we are. And nobody, you said this earlier that there's not just one varieties. Like, we're not going to let that you have the right to express ourselves. I'm thinking about you and the expression, I'm thinking about you as a little girl and how will people see saw you younger. Do you still come across as much quieter, you know, if people meet you
26:53 All social media, they are mistaken in believing that you're quiet. You're more reflected in a different sort of way. But I'm thinking about you on the field trip when you were in for a little preschool on the bus, the bus with you and you know, everybody's getting on the bus and sit next to you have your you know, are you okay? And you look up with a straight face and said I'm having the time of my life.
27:29 And I like, you know what, this little girl is going to be. Alright, I was worried about you and I promise you from that moment on like all my friends would call me is like you being a four-year-old, all the way up to your other area. Secondary years in college Years, to be someone who my friends know, you know, I'm very tuned-in. But what it really showed me is that, you know, who you are. You didn't sell any pressure to, you know, like one around to you. Now. I'm having the time of my life straight face. So what, what has been one of the greatest things that you've done so far? At least 23, hair is that you're proud of.
28:13 I think.
28:16 One of the things that I've done that I've been proud of so far in that 23 is really
28:26 Be sure to myself but also I'm cultivating. Maintain so many great relationship is in relationships. Really relationship with women with other women, who are my friends, who I love dearly, who I can go and I can talk to you at a point about anyting and I know that they'll have my back or their self set me straight, you know, I don't to happen because, you know, just having those friendships that I can really rely on and that I can really be myself with in around just, just having them has been a really great thing because sometimes having friends is hard and having good relationships is hard, but when you really find people who truly love you for who you are and they're not looking to get anything from you, or they're not looking for something that you cannot provide them with.
29:23 It just a really, it really does something for you. It does. So, okay. I want to ask you this, then what about your relationships? Your bestest friend in the whole entire world, but also a relationship with, you know, your dad and your brothers. And I think as time goes on, we all grow when we learn and we're in this together with your real family unit. Is your favorite, your brother, your baby brother. He is my best I ever had truly honestly.
30:11 I don't know. There's something about being the older sister, a certain sense of responsibility and everybody feels. I know it's okay. Everybody that I know and myself included. I love looking at your relationship because it teaches me how to be a better, a better mother, a better friend and I didn't grow up my siblings. And so for me to be able to have created some beings who are so kind to each other, you know, cuz he's 21, you're 23. And you know, we are closer in age than those two, aged only 20 months apart, right? I remember when people would sing happy birthday to both of you say they're twins and the two of you
31:00 If you're born in 1999 and 1998, but really, I think that's why I take my cues from seeing your relationship with each other. And really being honored to see how careful you are with him. And how careful he is with you. And then I also benefit from that cuz you know, I had cancer. But you and Christian really became my touchdown by grounding point and you folded into one person and some ways, you know, you had to be there for him in some ways that what we already do everything together. But I just I want you to know all of them is that I've just been so grateful for the opportunity to parent you and to watch Your Love of All to watch. You grow as a woman to watch. You grow as a person to watch. Brought the humanitarian, you know, working with me. And he's so sensible little xan.
32:00 You know any time I have an idea, you're right there and just being really kind and gentle and I always tell you, you know, I love you and how I admire you because I wanted that as a child and I think it's so very important that we hear that for my parents and I just I've been changed so immeasurably by immeasurably by the generosity of your spirit. I've been blessed by your presence, even if you get frustrated with me, that's an opportunity for me to to grow in the moment because I don't want to be in conflict with you. But you know, it also helps me to develop some meditational skills or you know, any of the ideas I have. I appreciate you for being someone who is very grounded and reliable and honest and steadfast and responsible and careful what I say.
33:00 And I remember just anytime we go somewhere. You're always a person who is going to make sure I get off the curb, you know, your brother and your dad are very kind of me as well. But just making sure I'm okay, and I always want to make sure that you're okay. And I tell you how long you're not in service of us, you know where unit and I want to make sure that we're pouring back into you. So, you know, just thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
33:23 I love you, Kayla. I love you, too.